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Example of burdens of proof in a criminal case | Denver Criminal Defense Attorney

It’s a warm summer night and a homeowner has phoned 911 to report a burglary.  The homeowner says the burglar was wearing a mask, sweatshirt, and was carrying a bag.  The homeowner reports a missing DVD player his wife’s necklaces.

Minutes later a police officer observes a man running just two blocks from the homeowner’s address.  The man is wearing a dark sweatshirt and sweatpants, there is mud on his pants and shoes, and he has a bag over his shoulder. The officer now has reasonable suspicion to stop and identify this person.  However, there is not yet enough evidence (probable cause) to make an arrest.

The officer stops and questions the man and learns that he does not live in the area.  The officer observes that the man is visibly nervous and is sweating.  The officer looks inside the bag and sees electronics and jewelry.  The officer now has probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and arrests the man.

A grand jury is later presented with the case.  If the Grand Jury finds the officer did not have probable cause, it will “no bill” the case, and it will be dismissed.  If they believe that there is probable cause cause, then they will indict (also known as “true bill”) the case and send it to the district court.

In the district court, a jury is empaneled to hear the evidence.  To convict, the prosecutor must present enough evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.